A deep sense of relief washed over the US Air Force pilots and their 823 Afghan passengers as the wheels of an exceptionally overloaded C-17 left Kabul’s tarmac for the last time. 

Carrying only their bloodstained and sweaty garments, the bewildered refugees set out into the unknown, leaving behind the entirety of their livelihoods, all worldly possessions, and countless family members. One of the darkest weeks in Afghanistan’s history was only just beginning. 

Given the plight of the desperate evacuees and credible reports of Taliban retributions, it was unfathomable that anyone, especially a westerner, would voluntarily enter the country at this moment. However, despite global concern and Foreign Office warnings, one Gen-Z Brit saw the opportunity of a lifetime and travelled to Kabul just days before its fall.

Miles Routledge, known as “Lord Miles”, was 21 years old when he left Loughborough University to witness the Taliban takeover firsthand. He relayed the anarchic demise of Kabul to his eager fandom via social media posts. Revelling in the chaos, he happily reported on bank runs, civil unrest, and seeing dead bodies in the street. With a constant ironic nonchalantness, Miles called the experience “tame” and “more peaceful than London”.

“If I get proven wrong and die, edit a laughing soundtrack over my posts. It’ll be funny I think,” he told his followers in one post.

Miles was saved from Taliban captivity or worse by British forces, who escorted him to several safehouses and facilitated the wayward traveller’s flight out of Afghanistan. Despite this heroic effort, Miles displayed no remorse for his careless actions, and revealed the name of a former Afghan interpreter who was working for him as a tour guide, leading to an interview with him being scrubbed from the web over security concerns.

Smugly, he took a selfie on the evac-flight and related his excitement for the homebound journey. The seat he took undoubtedly could’ve been used to save former interpreters such as his own tour guide, some of whom have been ruthlessly slaughtered by the Taliban since.

Miles would end up being the first of many influencers to not only experience the Taliban’s new Afghanistan, but to wholeheartedly endorse travel to the nation to audiences of millions. 

His first experience was a massive success, transforming his life from obscurity to celebrity, garnering him international attention and a book deal. Miles claims to have “cornered the market” for war tourism, and has since built his brand as the world’s foremost danger-influencer.

In a disrespectful move to the British soldiers who risked their lives to assist Miles, the self-described “Lord”, returned to Afghanistan on three more occasions. 

During his second trip, Miles claims to have attempted to save his former tour guide, but was unable to do so. In an interview after, Miles says the targeted man’s “life was screwed”.

While failing to extract the endangered guide, Miles did succeed in garnering over a million views on a video of him shooting captured firearms with the Taliban.

In 2023, Miles’ set out to Afghanistan once again, aiming to “open up a gold mine”. Likely perplexed by his insistence to visit their nation, the Taliban detained Miles and held him for eight months on suspicion of spying. Once again, Miles created a major headache for the UK Foreign Office who reportedly had to work for his return and had to issue a statement essentially thanking the Taliban for releasing him amongst other British detainees.

Despite his lengthy imprisonment, Miles gave a glowing review of his Taliban captors, calling them “lovely lads” and said the experience was the best adventure he’s ever had. 

A few months after his release, he returned again to collect Taliban merchandise and sell it to fans in the West. Whie Miles’ affection for the murderous terrorist group is deplorable, to provide some limited credit where it is due, he was able to raise funds for a local school after his journey.

A former classmate describes Miles as a “proper sociopath” and “massive attention-seeker”. In the modern, click-driven digital sphere, these personality types thrive. Those who are willing to perform the most outrageous pranks, produce the most offensive or sexually provocative content, and travel to the most authoritarian and unlivable places are rewarded with the greatest number of views.

Miles’ outrageous journeys have inspired many other influencers to travel to Afghanistan, British Youtubers such as Britannica,  Blackman da Traveller, and Harry Jaggard have gained millions of views and subscribers from voyages to the country in the last few years. Their nearly unanimous takeaway: that Afghanistan is a safe, hospitable place to visit and that, while the Taliban may have distinct cultural practices, they are really a kind-hearted folk.

Even more surprisingly, several female YouTubers have also visited and endorsed the country. In an especially cringe-inducing clip, British influencer Carrie Patsalis shares tea with Taliban members, reflecting on the experience as “lovely”. She goes on to say that she is overjoyed that the Taliban no longer live in fear, are “relaxed and happy”, and can “have peace in their land”.

Another shocking video has recently surfaced on an Afghanistan travel instagram showing an American family from Boston with two young children regaling their pleasant experience touring the Islamic Emirate and encouraging others to come. 

The tourists and influencers joyfully instagramming from Afghanistan not only put themselves and their families in immense danger, but they also do a major disservice to the oppressed people of Afghanistan.

The men Carrie describes as kind and welcoming are perpetrating a sustained campaign to deny Afghan women the most fundamental human rights. Since the Taliban takeover, women have been thrown out of schools, forced out of employment and public life, and are raped by Taliban members without consequence. The only women enjoying freedoms in modern Afghanistan are the moronic Western influencers who experience a fanciful and insulated travel experience with Taliban-approved guides.

In addition to supporting a horrific regime, influencers risk misleading others into believing Afghanistan is a safe country. In May of this year, three Spanish tourists lost their lives and four other foreigners were injured in an attack by gunmen from an undisclosed group. 

The killers are likely ISIS-K, a ruthless offshoot group which conducted the Kabul Airport bombings and is waging a war against the Taliban in the nation’s west. Ignorant tourists are putting themselves in the crosshairs of this radical organisation, who will shoot, kidnap, and execute them if they have the opportunity to do so. 

Away from the voices of Taliban sympathisers, there is one foreign influencer who has achieved virality for offering a real reflection on the regime’s atrocities. In a clip on her channel, travel YouTuber Chloe Jade details how by listening to music, going to a park alone, and removing her hijab, she broke Taliban laws that would land Afghan women in custody or worse. 

Chloe Jade’s perspective demonstrates that there is a way to produce content in Afghanistan that is deeper than the typical ignorant influencer fluff piece. Through her videos, she managed to show the nation’s humanity without condoning its oppressive Taliban regime. 

However, for many, the lie is the fortuitous bit. For decades, the Western consensus has been that Afghanistan is a dangerous place and that Taliban members are ruthless thugs. By leaning heavily into the counter-narrative, travel influencers can cash out by subverting expectations and creating unique, anti-mainstream content. Others may simply enjoy their Afghanistan experience and lack any ability to read into the situation around them. 

This indulgent content comes with a real human cost, however. By supporting the fictitious Taliban-endorsed narrative, influencers have misled others to journey to an incredibly unsafe nation, have been detained by the Taliban themselves, and have misrepresented or whitewashed the Taliban’s horrific treatment of their own people. 

So long as viewers keep encouraging these videos with their attention, the ridiculous Afghan influencer charade will persist, enriching the Taliban and putting lives at risk. 

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